Tales Of Ghost Appearances And Aliens On The Green As We Remember What We Will With A Wee Bit Of Star Spangled Banter

Hey everyone I always collect my thoughts before writing my post on Words and Music these days because I always have plenty to think about and this month was no exception. Indeed I think it is fair to say that November provided a few fireworks as many performers reflected on the horrors of war. It also produced few new faces to our First Monday gathering indeed I welcomed so many newcomers to the Words and Music stage I could have been forgiven for thinking it was a freshers event at the mature students union.

It was one of these new faces who got the night under way as Peter Callaghan graced the stage to make a long overdue debut in the wee back room. I’ve known Peter for a number of years, first meeting him when I attended my first slam in 2003. I have always enjoyed his poetry and he got the night off to a brilliant start performing two poems on the topic of unions which are no longer as effective as they once were. In the first of these poems Scotland The Brave Or Scotland Behave he showed that his colours in next year’s independence referendum are very much those of Yes Scotland in a well written poem which was brilliantly crafted.

I suspect he may not be the only poet to offer an opinion on this topic in the months leading up to the event. I know I’ve already declared my intentions but Peter’s poem set the standard not only for the evening but for quality of poetic debate on a very important issue as he gave his version of why we should get rid of Westminster’s parcel of rogues.

After one of the best opening performances and debuts I’ve seen at Words and Music in many a long day, it was to use another Burns phrase time to welcome back another Lad O Pairts Alex Frew to the family home. It was great to see back amongst for the first time since June, as due to his work commitments he has been unable to attend as often as he’d like in recent months.
Alex is always a valuable asset to our nights and his return to the Sammy’s stage saw him read Paper Cuts and Accidental Me. These poems show contrasting sides to a man who though better known for his humour can also write some serious stuff and is in my a better poet than some people give him credit for.

Once Alex had completed his set it was time for one of our rising stars to make his contribution to the evening and when Craig Scott takes the stage it doesn’t take long for those in the audience to realise this is a man worth listening to. This month Craig entertained us with his thoughts on a varied range of topics including Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attitudes to his country’s LGBT community, Recollections on Student Life and Scottish Passenger Transport. Honestly this young man presents a more varied and far less biased take on current issues whether they be local, national, and international than the BBC ever would. Not that he should put that on his list of achievements, god knows it isn’t too difficult. Anyway, it was another excellent set from one of Sammy’s rising stars.

After a set from one of our new golden generation it was time to welcome a woman who is not only a member of the Sammy’s establishment but is one of our leading matriarchs in the sense that I sometimes seek her advice on matters poetic I refer of course To A C Clarke.

As always Anne delivered an excellent filled with quality poems from start to finish. Her selection included a poem in praise of bogs. For the benefit of those who have never attended a poetry I should that the bogs I refer to are those marshy, swampy, bits of land and not toilets. Anne doesn’t do bog standard humour. Other topics covered by a polished performer who knows how to make the most of her five minutes newcomers please take note, were a poem on Hardy’s burial the role of Women in World War 2, and a biscuit tin. I don’t know why but as a Celtic fan the biscuit tin poem did remind of the incompetence of our board under Michael Kelly and also of the better together campaign’s approach to Scotland ask they beg Oliver Twist to style to Westminster Please sir can I have some more? Honestly it just takes a mention of Biscuit Tins and I go off on a rant. Well you know what they say, once a Celtic girl always a Celtic girl.

Anyway back to the night in question
and as I said in my there was a theme of remembrance which developed through the evening and no-one illustrated this better than Alan McGlas who in a brilliant piece of prose written about his grandfather summed the full force of the carnage and devastation of war in one chillingly accurate sentence when he said his grandfather owed his life to the fact that he was ‘a 19 year old boy who was able to thrust a bayonet faster than his 19 year old adversary’ This sentence summed up the fact that there are only casualties in conflict and there can never be winners in war.

At the end of Alan’s brilliantly moving story we moved from war in this world to the possibility of life on another one as Eric Whyte who was making his Sammy’s debut read us a story which he said we would find very difficult to believe. Now I hate to inform him but this is Words and Music and we can believe the unbelievable. Lets face it, there have been times when we’ve had to worry about far scarier things than the possibility of Aliens landing on Glasgow Green and interrupting Eastenders. I mean culture lovers would forever be in your debt if this scenario ever played out for real. Anyway the story was laced with fantasy horror and humour, and as regulars will tell you these are key ingredients in any Sammy’s night. Also I have to say from this was a cracking debut from a young writer of immense promise who I hope we see a lot more of in the months and years to come.

Next to take the stage was another first timer as Sammy’s welcomed Harry McDonald to the stage. I had met Harry before when he and his daughter attended Bards in the Park, so I knew he was equally at home reading prose or poetry. On this occasion he read three poems, amongst the topics covered were alzheimer’s disease and universal credit but my pick of an excellent debut set, was his middle poem says who? This poem spelt Glasgow smelled Glasgow and screamed Glasgow on every line. I look forward to hearing a lot more of his work in the future.

Talking of West of Scotland wit this is something John McGlade has always had a plentiful supply of and yet again his poems hit the mark in spectacular style. John started his set with the rhyming sub mariner and then one which reminded me of all those involved in the better together campaign. Well with a title like I’m a complete charlatan it’s easy to understand why. John followed this with beta males a poem in which he explored the concept of sensitive free thinking liberal minded males. This poem made me realise that there is actually a name for the type of man I’m looking to hook up with I mean meet and it’s not smooth talking chancers, he concluded his set with hide and seek a poem which was reminiscent of John Cooper Clarke in terms of style and delivery.

Following John is never easy and this month that honour fell to Linda Grant. 2013 has been a good year for Linda and as we reach the end of it, there is no doubt that we are seeing a stronger more confident woman than we did at the same time last year and her improvement both as a writer and a performer had been marked.

On this occasion Linda read a set of three poems two of which Halloween Horrors and Ghost Appearance focus on the events of the previous week. She then concluded her set with a poem on war.

Just as the night was beginning to turn sensible, well Linda does try to be sensible
It was Andy Fleming who came to the stage
to put an end to any such thoughts. Andy who is by far and away the most democratic poet in the world and takes audience participation to new levels and often gets members of the gathering to his set for him short set combining both words and music. Well, it’s what the event’s all about you know. The first of these was the poem he wrote for the 2009 McGonnagall supper after which he performed a cracking song Honk for the Living God which I’m sure would get an interesting reception at Jim Ewing’s faith and unbelief event.

It was this stage in the evening we were joined by two returning friends who hadn’t made it along as both Paddy Hannrahan and even more importantly my wee poetry sister Catherine Baird joined the company. However being the kind of compare I am I cracked on with the night and introduced Jim Ewing to the company. Jim read a selection of poems which included one on war Remember What You Will, a short trio of poems and Break the Monotony.
This was an interesting set from a poet not afraid to speak his mind.

As Jim rejoined the company it was Lesley McKay who was called to take us to the bar break and Lesley so often first up was in top form delivering what I can only describe as a personal manifesto with her poems 67 Minutes and Be The Change stating very clearly her belief in a better world where everyone plays a part and serves humanity in whatever way we can.

After the bar break, it was time for our featured acts or perhaps I should say act as poor Lisa Gilday had to pull out of the featured music slot at the last moment due to a severe cold. This was a wee shame as she missed a great night and we certainly missed her musical talents. However this meant I could be a wee bit more lenient with the writers than may otherwise have been the case.

As for our featured writer, I have to say that Sheila Templeton
was the inspired choice I always knew she would be. In a set of breathtaking quality Sheila showed the full diversity of her work with poems on football fans, war, and no the football fans were not involved in the war. Well they were Scotland fans and everyone knows we have the best fans in the world. She also read an anti war poem on Gaza, which was followed by callender exchanges between herself and her sister, and a visit to dying relative. She also performed a couple of poems in Scots before concluding with a poem on the Glasgow fair. This was a fantastic set, a fact which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the quality of her work, Like A C Clarke Sheila is a former maker of the Federation of Writers Scotland and believe me this is a title you do not get awarded easily so that in itself says more about Sheila than I ever can but I can and will say it was a genuine pleasure to have her on our stage as our featured writer.

Usually the featured writer is followed by the featured musician but unfortunately our choice for this month Lisa Gilday was as I said earlier unwell so this meant we could get on to the final few writers far sooner than would normally be the case.

Steve Allan had the unenviable task of following Sheila, however Steve has never been one for shirking a challenge and he carried his duties with the minimum of fuss and maximum ease entertaining us with a story of how all does not go to plan when your getting interviewed for a place in heaven. Steve has in my opinion an engaging way with him and is able to spin a yarn better than anyone I’ve heard since late Crispin Allen who was sadly taken from us back in 2001 was enthralling Words and Music back the 1990’s and indeed right up to a month before his untimely death. So you could say he is reviving an old words and music tradition and he’s doing it with just a bit of style.

After Steve storytelling exploits it was the turn of Stephen Watt to grace the stage, and ever reliable as always our current champion didn’t let us down. Stephen’s set, Execution and FIFA Widow was short sharp and punchy and as usual went down a treat with his ever growing army of fans of which by the way I am most certainly one.

As Stephen made his exit it was time for our penultimate performer of an action packed evening and who better to fill this slot than our resident storyteller Paddy Hannrahan. With his white hair and beard and a cheerful smile to match it has been said that Paddy is a dead ringer for Santa. However like Santa Paddy likes it better when people are good to each other and don’t get involved in the nasty stuff such as hatred and war. On what was an evening which had a very definite Anti-War theme to it Paddy used his story to underline the futility of this action and believe me when I say it left a few of us gasping for breath at the end of it such was the power of its message.

There was only one way to follow that and that was to pause for a moment before I started my set to bring the evening to a close. Since I had a wee bit more time than usual I decided to make the most of it and read a slightly extended set. Like many of the performers on a night to remember, I started with the themes of war and remembrance by reading my anti-war poem Entrenched. I then moved on to Child Of Sorrow, which I often refer to as my blue peter poem. I say this as it reminds me of the guilt trips I would get as a child/teenager when blue peter would launch their Christmas appeal for the starving children of a war torn country which was stricken by famine and poverty and this was in the days before Geldof
After this I read Video Nasty which though written about the war in Kosovo in 1999 can apply to any war in the television age. To me the fact we are able to see war beamed straight in to our living room almost makes us immune to the suffering that people are facing in these countries and it’s as if by changing the channel we can run away from reality and pretend it isn’t happening. My next poem Star Spangled Banter marked a change in tone though it was still having a dig albeit a satirical one at the influence of television on society. In this case however it aimed most of its fire at the fame factory of the Holywood movie industry. Well lets be honest it does rather set itself up for this kind of attack. My final poem was undoubtedly my favourite one of the night as I decided to leave everyone laughing with tales of a girls night out and Lost The Plot certainly did the job as I told the story of a Saturday night in that most romantic of venues otherwise known as Glasgow city centre. Is it autobiographical I hear you ask? Well I’ll answer by saying only this every writing tutor I have ever had says it is better to write about what you know.

At the end of my set another night passed in to Sammy’s history and an attendance of 25 were there to enjoy it with its crazy tales of ghost appearances and aliens on the green as we remember what we will with a wee bit of star spangled banter. Well each of us will take our own memories from an excellent evening’s entertainment.

I hope to see you all in December for the Words and Music Christmas Cracker I’m sure it will provide us as every night does with madness mayhem and memories which as we all secretly know are reasons to cheerful they are also the reasons that words and music has survived for as long as it has and will survive for a long time to come.

Love And Best Wishes Gayle X

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